Although she was considered among her contemporaries to be the better poet than her husband, later Elizabeth Barrett Browning was overshadowed by his success.

Option A
Option B
Option C
Option D
Option E

(This question is from Official Guide. Therefore, because of copyrights, the complete question cannot be copied here. The complete question can be viewed on GMATClub)


Meaning Analysis

  • Although she was considered among her contemporaries to be the better poet than her husband,
  • later Elizabeth Barrett Browning was overshadowed by his success.

The sentence presents a contrast, as the word ‘although’ suggests. It says:

Even though Elizabeth was considered among her contemporary poets a better poet than her husband, her husband later became more successful than her.

Error Analysis

The sentence has two errors:

  1. When comparing two entities in a regular comparison “better.. than”, we do not use the article “the”; we use “a”. In other words, we do not say “X is the better person than Y”; we say “X is a better person than Y”. If you think about it, the rule makes sense given the general use of the articles “a” and “the”. Saying “X is the better person than Y” would mean that there is only one person better than Y, and that person is X. However, we do not want to mean that X is the only person better than Y. Therefore, it makes sense that we say “X is a better person than Y”.
  2. “Overshadow” means “more prominent or more important”. Therefore, it is a form of a comparison. The original sentence says “Elizabeth Barrett Browning was overshadowed by his success”. Thus, we are comparing a person with another person’s success. Such a comparison is not correct. Either we should compare a person with a person (Elizabeth was overshadowed by her husband) or we should compare the success of one with that of another (Elizabeth’s success was overshadowed by her husband’s success)

Option Analysis

(A) Incorrect. As discussed above.

(B) Incorrect. For two reasons:

  1. “consider X Y” and “consider X to be Y” are significantly more preferred idioms than “consider X as Y”. If there are two exactly same options in all other terms: one with “consider X as Y” and the other with “consider X Y”, always choose the latter one.
  2. It has the same comparison error as option A (compares Elizabeth with her husband’s success)

(C) Incorrect. For the below reason:

The sentence starts with a verb-ed modifier “overshadowed…”. The subject of the sentence is “poetry”. Since “Elizabeth Barrett Browning” is in the possessive form, it is acting as an adjective to poetry. Therefore, given the structure of the sentence, it means that her poetry was overshadowed by the success of her husband. Clearly, we have an illogical comparison here. We are comparing poetry of one person with success of another person

(D) Correct. The comparison is correct. We are comparing the success of one person with the success of another person. Besides, when the two parties of a comparison have been mentioned earlier, we can say “X is the better poet”. The reason is that in this case, only one person (from the two) is better than the other. Therefore, it makes sense to use “the”.

(E) Incorrect. For the below reasons:

  1. The use of “considered as” – as explained in option B
  2. In this option, we are comparing “Elizabeth’s poetry” with her husband. Clearly, illogical.
  3. Even though logically, the antecedent of “her” is clear, the structure seems to indicate that “her” refers to “poetry”. Even though I wouldn’t suggest that one reject an option statement just for this structural issue, I would say that one should always prefer an option with a better structure than this one.

Additional Notes

This question is one of the precedent-setting questions. In the correct option D, “she” – a pronoun – refers to “Elizabeth Barrett Browning”, which only appears in the possessive or the adjective form. Therefore, in this question, a pronoun is referring to anything other than a noun. Such a use had been considered an error before this question.

However, I would not suggest that students discard this rule that nouns cannot refer to adjectives. I would rather suggest that you keep this rule in mind but do not reject an option just for violating this rule. If an option statement violates this rule, keep such an option statement on hold and look for some better option. If you do not find any better option, you can pick this option even if it violates the rule.


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